Wisdom teeth removal is one of the most common oral surgery procedures practiced today. The dentists and oral surgeons performing this procedure are highly skilled and can typically remove four wisdom teeth in under thirty minutes. Many people have these extractions when they are in their late teenage years. This is the time that allows for the simplest surgery and the fastest recovery.
Regardless of when you have the wisdom teeth extractions, you have the responsibility of caring for the surgery sites afterward, and good aftercare can greatly reduce the risk of complications.
Potential Post-Op Complications from Wisdom Teeth Removal
There are several complications that can arise after wisdom teeth surgery. It is important that you recognize these and notify your surgeon if you notice signs of any of them.
An intraoral surgery site in a healthy patient should stop bleeding within a few hours. Many people will notice a slow oozing of blood for 24-48 hours, which may produce a pink tinge to your saliva or even stain a pillowcase. However, this is still considered normal.
By “prolonged”, we mean bleeding that shows no signs of clotting or stopping within the first 24 hours. Prolonged bleeding may result from prescription medications a patient takes or a hereditary bleeding disorder. When your surgeon is aware of these potential risk factors, he or she can address the surgery differently to reduce your bleeding. This makes disclosing your complete medical history of the utmost importance!
Infection of Surgical Sites
Because of the presence of bacteria in the mouth, any surgery site is at risk for infection. Antibiotics are not necessary in every patient’s case, and the surgeon usually does not prescribe them as a preventive measure. Because the risk of post-operative infection is higher when an infection of either the teeth or gums is already present, your surgeon will recommend antibiotics in cases of large cavities or gum disease on your wisdom teeth or the nearby teeth.
An infection in a surgery site will manifest itself in a few different ways. These include increasing pain, increasing swelling, or pus exuding from the surgery site. We use the term “increasing” because some pain and swelling is completely normal after oral surgery. However, the post-operative pain that is normal should be diminishing in intensity over time. Anything that is getting worse indicates a problem in healing, which could be the sign of an infection.
Pus is usually always the sign of an infection, and in oral surgery sites, it can be difficult to discern. Most people collect plaque buildup and food debris in the extraction sockets, which can look like pus due to the off-white color. Pus will be a thick liquid, whereas plaque and food buildup are more semi-solid in nature.
Dry socket is relatively well known, but few understand what it actually is. Dry socket occurs when the blood clot that forms within an extraction socket goes missing. This can result from a dislodging or dissolving of the clot. When the clot is missing, the bony walls of the extraction socket are exposed to the oral environment, and it causes severe pain.
Dry socket typically occurs at 3 to 5 days after the extraction. In addition to severe pain, it causes a bad smell and a bad taste in the mouth. It does not always cause swelling. Dry socket does require attention from your dentist or surgeon in order to alleviate your pain.
General Post-Op Instructions
In general, there are certain instructions that every extraction patient should follow to prevent complications and promote good healing of the surgery site.
- No Smoking.
Smoking after a tooth extraction greatly increases your risk for dry socket. This is because the sucking motion as you pull on a cigarette can dislodge the blood clot. Smokers have a much higher risk for all post-operative complications, and especially dry socket. In order to heal as quickly as possible, you should refrain from smoking for two weeks after your extractions.
- No Straws.
Straws can cause the exact same suction that smoking cigarettes does, and therefore, they also increase your risk for dry socket. Avoid using straws for at least one week following any extractions.
- No Alcohol.
Alcohol can lead to dry socket by dissolving the clot within the socket. It is extremely important to your healing that you avoid alcohol for at least one week following any tooth extractions.
- No Carbonated Drinks.
Carbonated drinks have the same effect on a clot within the extraction socket as alcohol does. The acidic pH and fizzy action can dissolve a blood clot relatively quickly. It is important to understand that this applies to all carbonated drinks, even sparkling water. Again, avoid these for at least a week following surgery.
- Gentle Mouth Rinses.
Gentle is the operative term here. You will need to rinse your mouth with either an alcohol-free mouthwash or simple warm salt water following oral surgery to keep the surgical site clean. However, vigorous swishing and swirling is not good for a healing socket. Make sure you use only gentle motions and very gentle spitting motions. Forceful spitting could also dislodge the clot.
- Good Oral Hygiene.
Keeping the remainder of your teeth and gums clean after oral surgery is imperative to good healing. Many people are afraid to brush and floss when they have open wounds in the mouth. The problem is that this allows plaque buildup on the teeth and gums, which actually increases the risk of an infection at your surgical site. Keep up with great oral hygiene to prevent post-op infections.
- Take Medication as Directed.
Your dentist or surgeon will prescribe antibiotics, anti-inflammatory medication, or pain relievers as required by your specific case. Taking these as directed not only prevents many post-operative complications; it also helps you heal more quickly.
Specific Post-Op Instructions
In cases of complicated extractions, your surgeon may give you specific instructions in addition to the general instructions listed above. These will promote your quick healing and could relate to your overall health. These might include:
- Diabetic patients closely monitoring and regulating blood sugar levels
- Care for stitches, either dissolvable or those requiring a follow-up visit for removal
- Irrigation of extraction sockets using special syringes
- Specific oral care products to keep the surgery site clean and free of bacteria
More Questions about Wisdom Teeth Extractions?
Call your nearest Premier Dental of Ohio location today to schedule a consultation with one of our skilled dentists. We can answer any question you have about wisdom teeth removal and your after care process.